China Orders Some 10,000 Cats Killed
Tests Suggest a Link Between the Animals and SARS Sickness
By JOE McDONALD, AP
BEIJING (Jan. 4) - China on Monday ordered some 10,000 civet cats in wildlife markets killed in its southern province of Guangdong after genetic tests suggested a link to a suspected SARS case.
Also Monday, authorities denied reports that a second suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome had been found in Guangdong.
All of Guangdong's wildlife markets were ordered to close, Feng Liuxiang, deputy director of the province's health department, said on national television.
Civets are considered a delicacy in Guangdong and are served in wild game restaurants.
The announcement came after researchers at Hong Kong University said they found similarities between a virus found in the cats and in a suspected SARS patient in Guangdong, suggesting the disease might have jumped from animals.
"We will take resolute measures to close all the wildlife markets in Guangdong and to kill the civet cats,'' Feng said on the national noon newscast of China Central Television.
CCTV said there were believed to be about 10,000 civet cats on sale in Guangdong wildlife markets.
Civets were cited by scientists as a possible source of SARS, which is believed to have begun in Guangdong. The disease killed 349 people on China's mainland and 774 worldwide before subsiding in June.
China banned trade in civets and 53 other wild animals last April amid sweeping efforts to stop the spread of SARS. That prohibition was lifted in August despite warnings by scientists that the animals might still be a health threat.
The new ban was announced as Chinese and international experts were trying to confirm whether a 32-year-old television producer identified as a possible SARS case has the virus. They say that after three weeks of inconclusive tests, they expect to announce a decision this week.
Wang said the patient was recovering.
Also Monday, Chinese health officials denied reports by Hong Kong newspapers that a waitress at a wild game restaurant in Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital, was a suspected SARS case.
"We do have a fever patient due to pneumonia, but this has no direct connection with any suspected SARS case,'' the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Wang Ming, deputy director of the Guangzhou municipal disease prevention and control center, as saying.
"We have taken necessary medical measures towards the patient with a fever,'' Wang was quoted as saying. "Our diseases prevention and control centers are examining and closely monitoring the situation.''